Creamy mushroom ragu is the vegetarian equivalent of the Bolognese sauce for pasta: smooth, rich in flavour and yet meatless.
What's a ragù?
You can troll me for the choice of name for this recipe as much as you like. I know: Italian ragù or the French ragoût is a stew, evolved in Italian region of Bologna into meat sauce for pasta. Meat is the operative word there since it is a meat dish in both the originating countries, be it beef, pork or pigs ears.
The French are currently debating a ban on the use of meat-based dishes names for vegetarian food so there will be no more vegan sausages or cauliflower steaks there. Considering that I quite agree with the notion, what am I doing here with this ragù?
Heston calls it ragù
Oh well, it wasn’t me, guv’nor, honest. It was Heston Blumenthal the chef, his recipe featuring in The Times on Saturday one week. I’ll let him fight the battle with the French alone since he calls this dish 'a ragù'.
And anyway, what might we call this instead, to appease the French?
Mushroom sauce? It sounds incredibly boring and it is misleading as the mushrooms in this dish here are chunky and the liquid is scarce.
Mushroom casserole? It’s cooked on the hob and that does not a casserole make in my books.
Creamy mushrooms? Pur-lease.
So I’ll stick with the name and skulk around while Heston takes the blame. It is, truly, a masterly recipe.
How to use mushroom ragù?
It is super tasty and the addition of tomato ketchup is a stroke of genius. If you’d like, for whatever reason, to make it runnier, just don’t cook the sauce down quite as much as I indicate here.
It’s a ragu sauce for pasta, so the primary implementation is with a pile of freshly cooked spaghetti or linguine.
But it’s fabulous on toast as well, as a brunch or even a sumptuous breakfast dish. You can poach a couple of eggs in the ragu whilst it finishes cooking for a novel take on shakshuka.
Alternatively, scoop those eggs out with a slotted spoon and sit them on a toasted roll, with mushroom ragu piled on the side.
It can obviously also be served simply as a side dish, with steak or lamb cutlets.
How to cook mushroom ragù?
There is an element of faff to it, since you need to cook the shallots and other aromatics separately, while the mushrooms have to be browned in another pan.
But considering it’s a vegetarian version of ragu meat sauce, whereby meat is decidedly browned in a dedicated pan before joining soffritto et al, it makes perfect sense. Why should you cut corners only because there’s no meat involved?
Charred mushroom chunks then join softened shallots and herbs, waiting for the wine to be sloshed in, with the tomato products and soy sauce.
If the mushrooms have released a lot of moisture, the sauce will need to be cooked down until there is very little liquid remaining in the pan.
Stirring in the cream, seasoning with lemon juice, salt and pepper are the finishing touches, as is a sprinkling of chopped parsley.
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